John Charles Fare fake?
February 15, 2006 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone provide me with additional information on performance artist John Charles Fare?

I first encountered his name on Wikipedia's List of Unusual Deaths, where it says he was decapitated by a robot during a performance. The only references I could find was the article linked in the question and a few brief mentions here and there. Searches for Golni Czervath, the supposed creator of the robot that performed surgeries on Fare also yielded few results. I get the impression that perhaps they never existed - surely such extreme performances would be better documented - but I'd very much like to know otherwise. So in my pursuit of the truth of John Charles Fare's existence I ask you, the MetaFilter community, does anyone have any information - anecdotal or otherwise - on John Charles Fare?
posted by nTeleKy to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
The actions always took place on Fridays at 8.30 pm. The first operation, a lobotomy, was carried out in Kopenhagen in June 1964. On the 17. September 1968 Faré turns up in the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto to get his right hand amputated. Beforehand, Farés body is fitted with small microphones, which transmit his pulse and breathing frequency in a distorted fashion. The hand gets amputated and preserved in a jar. From former actions, he already lacks a thumb, two fingers, eight toes, one eye, both testicles and several shreds of skin. Tim Craig: John Fare you well. In: Studio International, vol. 949, Band 184, November 1972, p. 160
posted by designbot at 2:26 PM on February 15, 2006

Actually, I guess that reference is at the bottom of the article you linked to.
posted by designbot at 2:30 PM on February 15, 2006

Well, I guess it depends on how badly you want to believe it. It appears to be purest fiction.

Quoting from the shock book Apocalypse Culture by Adam Parfrey

"The strange legend of John Fare resurfaces every few years, much like the rumor of Rudolf Schwarzkogler's supposed self-castration (he actually jumped out of a window to his death). According to the myth, Fare was a wealthy and perhaps psychotic artist who, out of ennui, hit upon the ultimate bit of body art. He supposedly contacted a cybernetics and robotics expert who helped him construct a programmable operating table with randomizing auto surgery. At various performances throughout Europe and Canada, Fare was supposed to have had numerous body parts lopped off and replaced with bizarre plastic decorations. The legend goes, that between 1964 and 1968, Fare was lobotomized, and lost one thumb, two fingers, eight toes, one eye, both testicles, his right hand, and several random patches of skin. According to another version, he only had six amputations, the last being his head. Tickets were sold for each performance and the various body parts were carefully preserved in alcohol. It is a story that no one has ever successfully corroborated, but its perennial fascination demonstrates, beyond our natural morbidity and ghoulishness as a species, the hold of these atavisms upon even relatively sophisticated minds.

As bizarre and unreliable the John Fare story is, there is a well-documented and and undeniable example of auto-surgery. In 1962, Dr. Bart Huges..." [end of quote]

The text of your first link is an except from Coil magazine produced and distributed byJohn Sanders and Mick Gaffney. Coil was an "experimental music group". The entire booklet can be found here along with a summary explanation.
posted by mdevore at 2:32 PM on February 15, 2006

I was the exhibition coordinator on "Out of Actions," MOCA's huge survey exhibition on performative art from the 40s through 70s. This John Fare cat never turned up in my three years of research. But if you're interested in human/robot performance work, check out Stelarc.

(The Schwarzkogler myth is fascinating. He's not even the individual who appears in the mutilation-themed photoworks for which he's best known--that was a hired model who was slimmer and less hirsute than the artist. Time magazine helped perpetuate the absurd castration death story. The actual cause of death was defenestration while in a psychotic state exacerbated by dieting.)
posted by Scram at 3:41 PM on February 15, 2006

Fascinating stuff.

So is the John Fare story a fiction produced by another artist, with the myth and its dissemination being a work itself, or a satire on artists like Franko B? (I can't make out the tiny text in the scans that mdevore links to, but the writing style in the main post link suggests so.)
posted by jack_mo at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2006

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